When I explain to people why an induction is so important, I like to discuss what would happen if you didn’t have an induction.
On day one you’d be welcomed at the door and if you were lucky shown your desk. New colleagues would zoom past you, busy in their tasks. Maybe there would be a print out of what to do on your new desk, or even better a briefing from your new line manager. All offices have unwritten rules of working, so you become an amateur sociologist for the day, observing your new colleagues to ascertain what is deemed acceptable practice in the office. Is eating food at your desk OK? Are you allowed to listen to music via headphones whilst working?
Then there are all the questions that you’re told it’s impolite to ask in an interview, such as when pay day is. And there’s more life and death stuff, like who is trained in first aid and what the fire evacuation procedure is.
You muddle through your first few days, learning how things like the phones and internal systems work as you go along, every now and then giving colleagues a blank stare when they mention a name, department, system or procedure.
OK, so the truth is, you’d probably survive. But at the expense of feeling that the company had taken some time to properly orientate you and help you find your feet within the company. If you’re not the extroverted type who is happy to simply approach people and get steered in the right direction, many questions will go unasked, queries unresolved.
I’m not here to tell you how to do an induction in your specific company. There isn’t a “one size fits all” approach, and if I was to leave Gradwell tomorrow and join another company to help design an induction programme it would look different for sure. Some companies may do massive inductions involving many new starters, others may only do one person at a time. Some may ask senior managers to stop by and introduce themselves, other companies may have the managing director themselves doing the induction activities.
There are, however, key things that I believe companies should do in inductions.
Don’t make it too standardised
I’ve experienced all types of induction – on site, off site, in a large group, on my own and no induction at all. What rarely happens is that there is much talk about me as an individual. Sure, I’ve had the cringe-worthy “say your name and a funny fact about yourself”, but since an induction is often the first time I meet a new starter I like to ask them some questions about their background and hobbies before we even start talking about work. Just a small chat to get to know the real person, that’s all.
There is also no need to do the same induction for absolutely everyone. There are elements that maybe all new starters will do, but there’s also likely to be some things that aren’t relevant to everyone. Tailor it as much as possible each time.
Highlight good people to go to for questions
I like to tell individuals who they are likely to need to approach in their early days at the company (note that this can vary depending on the role) as well as personally introduce them to each other. But I always make it clear that if they don’t know who to ask just head in my direction and I’ll help them out.
Avoid information overload
Inductions don’t need to be done in a day. Often breaking material down into chunks and covering it across a few days (or even weeks) can be helpful.
Most companies operate a probation period. It’s good for people to know what is expected of them in these initial few months, and how as a company you are going to support them to meet those expectations.
What you take for granted, for example company lingo, might be foreign to your new starter. And if you take it for granted it means that you may never think to bring it up. After a few weeks and a few months informally ask new starters for feedback on what was missing for them. Companies change constantly, so never assume your induction is perfect.
Remember the induction is an extension of the job acceptance process
This is probably the biggest thing to remember.
I view job interviews as a two way sales process. As much as I’m selling myself to a potential employer, I believe that they should also convince me why it’s a worthwhile place to work. And in the initial few months with a company this process continues, at least up until the end of the probation period where either side can cancel the employment without much penalty. This makes a well thought out induction process all the more important for assisting the transition from signing the contract to making a person a well-integrated member of the team and no longer the “new starter”.
If you frequently lose staff in the early days and find yourself constantly trying to fill vacancies, don’t just look at the recruiters you use and the words in the job advert, have a look at if you’re helping the company be a welcoming place to be via the induction process too, because the search for a new employee doesn’t end at the acceptance of a job offer.
Robert Weeks is Operations Support Manager at Gradwell, and because of his staff training remit he is just one of the people responsible for helping make new Gradwell staff feel welcome in their new job
(photo from jamieashby)